Wingu Tingima, a senior Pitjantjatjara artist, was born around 1930 at Nyumum, a rockhole near Kuru Ala, an important seven sister site. She lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle with her family, walking through the country and surviving in the desert.
Art and craft was integrated into every aspect of daily life. From her mother, aunties and minyma pampa (old women) she learnt to spin hair-string on a fragile hand held-spindle; weave ceremonial hair belts and manguri (head rings) from hair, fur, emu feathers and spinifex; and carve utilitarian objects such as wana (digging sticks), piti (bowls), wira (digging scoop), and kanilpa (basin for collecting and winnowing seeds). Ephemeral drawings were quickly made in the sand then brushed away. Symbolic stone arrangements, rock paintings and petroglyphs marked the landscape. As she walked with her family she was told the epic journeys of tjukuritja beings (of the dreaming). The minyma would often sing and dance the fragment of the inma cycle specific to the women’s tjukurpa of the place where they camped. When they met other anangu for ceremony they painted ritualised patterns on their bodies with ochres and performed the epic inma cycles (ceremonial song and dance). When she was a young woman Wingu travelled with her family to the mission at Ernabella, where she learnt to spin wool, make rugs, knit and crochet.
Wingu frequently paints the Kungkarrakalpa or Minyma Tjuta Tjukurpa (Seven Sister Dreaming). A major tjukurpa for Irrunytju and across the central Australian deserts. The seven sisters travelled from near Kaliwarra to Wannan in Western Australia stopping at significant sites and rockholes including Kuru Ala, a sacred place for women. As they walked across the desert they were followed by a wati kula-kula (lustful man) called Nyiru. He wanted to take one of the sisters as a wife, but he was an old man and they did not want him. Near Kuru Ala Nyiru pretended to be a wayanu (quandong) tree. The sisters gathered around to pluck the fruit but when they tasted it they realised that it was not wayanu by Nyiru tricking them. They ran away and hid in a cave, but he followed them, so they ran to another rockhole where they saw a kuniya (python). The sisters knew the kuniya was really Nyiru so they killed and cooked him, then sang and danced inma.
There are a many stories associated with the Minyma Tjuta Tjukurpa. In one narrated by Kuntjil Cooper, Nyiru was sitting and watching as the sisters collected kampurarpa (desert raisin). One at a time the younger girls offered him fruit which he took, but hid behind his back. Then he asked the older sisters to bring food. The little sisters noticed what he was doing and said 'Hey, he must want the big sisters to bring the food.’ One of the older sisters offered him food in a wooden bowl but instead of taking the bowl he grabbed her wrist. That night he took her to the rockhole and she gave birth to two sons Palpatitja and Wantjama. The next night she gave birth to five daughters. They had a lot of children. Every night more children.
In her work Wingu brings together ancient imagery and visual language passed down to her through sand drawings, rock art and ochre body painting with modern media and techniques. Using confident, loose brushstrokes, punu marks and a rich palette of reds, oranges, purples and yellows of many hues, Wingu creates a multi-layered and heavily textured field of colour. At times linear elements which evoke ancient imagery are embedded within, or appear to float above the coloured surfaces. While referring to narratives and using traditional imagery and iconography, Wingu’s artwork is not explicit in illustrating events or depicting country but alludes to aspects of tjukurpa.

Knights, Mary
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